Build Better Flowcharts Than Everyone Else

A very useful tool I have found when running title is to have a good way to generate flowcharts for tracking.  I use flowcharts to track mineral interests, overrides, and working interests throughout the chain of title.  I have found that many landmen and title attorneys use MS Word/MS Excel, or even butcher’s paper to make flowcharts.  Your life can be significantly easier if you choose to use a dedicated program to design flowcharts.


Why shouldn’t you use a solution like MS Word or MS Excel?  It’s a program that most of us already own and it can get the job done.  Unfortunately, as many of you have found, for complicated mineral flows it can prove unwieldy.  I’ve found MS Office products difficult to use for the following reasons:

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    It is difficult to make alterations to the flowchart as you put more information in it.  You end up having to move many items to make room to add new entries.
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    There is a problem with managing how MS Excel will print and label pages. It is hard to make a professional looking flowchart package for an abstract.
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    The options for customization are not as varied as you find in a stand-alone product. Such as shapes, arrow types, boxes, manipulation of printed styling, etc.

I have found two programs over the last few years that have worked well for creating mineral flowcharts.  Sometimes these programs are called “mind mapping” programs as well.  Essentially you want a program that will allow you a large, customizable work-space to create a ‘map’.  It should also have good options available to manipulate the output of the map.


This piece of software is what I generally use for flow-charting. As with many stand-alone programs, you do have to pay for it. However, it has a free 30 day trial you can check it out. After you try it out, it is $49 if you want to keep using it. Compared to the popular deed plotting programs, this is a good value to me. Anything you can do to generate a more professional looking product is likely a good investment.

If you’d like to see some examples of flowcharts you can build with RF Flow, visit the examples section of the website. However, RF Flow will not run on a Mac computer unless you have a Windows emulator.


SmartDraw is an example of a program that is more a more robust, “full featured” solution for designing complex flowcharts. It boasts of the ability to integrate with MS Project, Sharepoint and Visio. This software does come at a cost though. The various versions are between $197 and $497. This program also includes a free trial version to try out the software.

If you’d like to see some example of flowcharts you can build with SmartDraw, visit the examples section of the website. As with RF Flow, SmartDraw does not offer a Mac version of their software.


Since so much of what we do is moving to the ‘cloud’ and online computer applications I thought I would include a solution to encompass that aspect. Lucidchart is a web-based solution to flowcharting. From using the trial version of the program it looks like it can do a good job with flowcharting, and also allow of project management via integration with Google Apps, Visio and several other team solutions. It also will allow you share your flowcharts over the web.

As with many online solutions, Lucidchart it uses a subscription based model. If you purchase an annual subscription it works out to $3.33/mo, rest assured they do allow you a 14 day trial to check out the service. To me it seems like the benefit of this product is using it in a ‘team’ environment. As such there are other pricing schemes for teams and enterprise usage, where you pay on a per-user basis.

As with the other software I’ve suggested, Lucidchart also has a section of its website reserved for examples. If this is an option that may work for you, I’d certainly recommend doing a trial and seeing how you like it. As you probably already know, Mac users will be able to take advantage of this service.


I recently completed a review of Tracts.co – a integrated title management solution.


This service is an automated runsheet and flowchart software that will build flowcharts for you.  However, it is an enterprise service designed for oil and gas companies that requires a subscription - so you can't simply login and try it out.


Read the full review here.

conclusion

Flow-charting is a part of our job as land professionals that we have to do from time to time. Having the right tools for the job will make you more efficient. I recommend trying out these programs and seeing if one of them fits your particular needs.

Randy Young

Randy Young

Randy is a land consultant with experience in field and in-house land work, land administration, and software consulting with systems used in the land management business. He is an active member of the AAPL, HAPL, and NHAPL and is a regular attendee of industry functions. Randy's latest projects have included land data systems integrations, with a focus on Quorum Land System.

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Chase G. - June 25, 2013 Reply

As a field landman, I used CMAP & Excel to create leasehold and mineral flowcharts. In addition to facilitating title research, my clients loved to be able to view a ‘snapshot’ of the chain of title, especially in cases where they need to determine how a particular company acquired an ORRI/WI, etc. As an inhouse landman, I expect flowcharts to be included with any finished product. Excel and CMAP both have limitations. The advantage of CMAP, is that it is extremely user friendly and easy to manipulate text boxes as you go. Biggest disadvantage is the print area, it is only ideal for smaller flow charts (less than 25 or so entries).

Ryan C - August 13, 2013 Reply

Thanks for the reviews. I have been looking for software like this! Absolutely correct with your assessment of MS Office products.

Cindy - August 27, 2013 Reply

Randy,

Thanks for the reviews. It’s nice to see there are options out there to chose from.
As an abstractor I’ve been using Excel for years, and yes it can be a bit of a pain. But having three sheets to start with, and the ability to add more as needed, allows individuals to customize their projects per the brokers specification. Such as Names List, Surface Flow, Mineral Flow, Working Interest Flow/s,Ownership Reports, Copy list, etc.

In addition, Excel allows the individual to have one file instead of several. Helping to keep each prospect, tract and owners in order for ease of retrieval when asked a question by the law firm, client, broker or landman/leasing agent.
Not to mention, your able to format cells to identify the actual owners, their contact information,ownership percent,interest, net acres, each cell equaling 100%. If an issue arises, attention can be brought by using a color such as red. Notes can also be added, indicating what the individual did to try an address the issue.

The biggest problem I’ve had when using Excel has been having to many owners through the chain of title. Such as 107 individuals who need to be leased on one tract of land. Often times this amount of individuals indicates that at least 600 or so individuals had to be searched in the records. I’ve helped to minimize this problem by making separate flows for family groups and their net acres. Even still this can be a problem in Excel when it comes time to save. Sometimes half or all can be lost. GRRRR!!!

I personally haven’t used GMAP. However, I’ve seen several land professional’s that have. From what I’ve viewed, It’s good for personal use and at best small projects. I personally would never present this to a client. As it can be very sloppy looking and very hard to follow.

FYI: A flow chart never flows up, it always flows DOWN!

    Randy Young
    Randy Young - August 27, 2013 Reply

    I’d encourage you to check out the trials for some of the programs mentioned. They are leaps and bounds better than excel and present nicely. I’ve never used GMAP either, but the ones I have used that I mentioned in the article are very professional.

Doug Dority - November 19, 2014 Reply

Hi Randy, great stuff as always. Could you recommend a good title chaining software that does the math on the interest as you go? Everything I have found so far is designed to handle everything a broker or land company needs… I just want title chaining. Thanks for any help you can give. God bless.

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